Welsh National Opera to launch virtual reality experience

Welsh National Opera will launch a new, site-specific virtual reality (VR) experience, Magic Butterfly, on 14 July 2017.

With reimagined scenes from The Magic Flute and Madam Butterfly, the free experience will be presented inside a shipping container outside Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre and will allow visitors to use Google Daydream technology – a mobile VR platform – to engage with the reimagined world around them.

Combining motion capture, animation, music and technology, Magic Butterfly is a new artistic commission from REWIND, an award-winning VR/AR content production agency which has delivered VR environments for Bjork, BBC and Red Bull. It features an original WNO recording of Un bel di (One fine day) with soprano, Karah Son, who recently sang the role of Cio Cio San in WNO’s production of Madam Butterfly. Audiences will also be able to experience lion-taming to a recording of How soft, how strong your magic sound from The Magic Flute.

The shipping container has been designed by Gwyn Eiddior – whose portfolio includes design work for the National Eisteddfod of Wales – and fitted out by Cardiff Theatrical Services (CTS).

Magic Butterfly follows on from the success of Field, a large-scale digital light installation at Wales Millennium Centre which represented the 923 Royal Welch Fusiliers who died at the Battle of the Somme during the First World War. It runs for four weeks before touring to Llandudno, Birmingham and Liverpool during WNO’s Autumn season. It will also be presented in London at the V&A Museum in January 2018 as part of the V&A and Royal Opera’s Opera: Passion, Power and Politics exhibition.

David Massey, WNO Digital Producer, said:

‘We wanted to build upon the success of our last digital project, Field, and produce an innovative experience that audiences can engage with physically as well as emotionally. This is an exciting new venture for the company, using new technology, drama and music to help us put audiences right at the heart of what we do. We think that the visual and auditory experience that is opera lends itself perfectly to VR. I have no doubt that Magic Butterfly will delight audiences and help us build new audiences for opera.’

Greg Furber, REWIND Director, said:

‘More than anything, I want the audience to be able to get lost in the worlds that have been created for them. To feel completely immersed in what they are seeing and hearing. For Madam Butterfly, to experience the beauty and power of Karah’s performance which we’ve become hypnotised by during the production process. For Magic Flute, I hope the audience will feel a sense of fun and wonder, that they feel transported to a magical forest surrounded by the animals they have tamed.’

Header photo: © Kirsten McTernan

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